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Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Last updated: December 4, 2019
Doctor consulting with patient on varicose veins

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One thing we all know about varicose veins is that they don’t look pretty.

Those blue and purple bulging veins are not exactly the latest trend in fashion. But guess what? There is so much more than meets the eye when it comes to your varicose veins.

Aside from being unsightly, they are also unsafe if you leave them untreated. So while the term “dangerous” seems a bit intense, varicose veins can be very problematic if you don’t get help from a vein specialist.

Woman with varicose veins on a leg walking using trekking poles

To help answer the common question, “Are varicose veins dangerous”, let’s take a look at some of the hidden dangers of varicose veins that you should be aware of and what exactly happens if varicose veins are left untreated

Varicose Veins Could Mean More

Other than what you see on the surface, your varicose veins may be a sign of a deeper health problem happening underneath the surface.

Deep-Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

According to Harvard Medical School, “Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) refers to a blood clot that forms in a deep vein, usually in the calf or thigh, but also the pelvis or the arm.”

There are a number of different things that can cause deep-vein thrombosis. Here are a few:

  • Traumatic injury
  • Surgery
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Cancer
  • Cancer treatments
  • Genetics

So why is DVT so scary? Because if the blood clot breaks off, it could move to the lungs and cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism – a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs.

In order to ensure you don’t get to the point of deep-vein thrombosis, here are the signs you should watch out for. These symptoms will likely occur in the calf, foot or leg.

  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Discomfort

If you find yourself experiencing these for more than a couple hours, that’s your red flag to take things seriously. We suggest you head immediately to Vein Clinics of America to get your legs checked out at first sight of any of the above symptoms. 

Find a vein clinic near you.

While DVT is the most potentially life-threatening result of leaving your varicose veins untreated, there are some other issues you may face if you don’t take those vein problems to a specialist.

Painful varicose veins on womans legs

What happens if varicose veins are left untreated?

Swelling

While this may not sound terrible (we’ve all had swollen body parts before and survived), when your legs are swelling as a result of varicose veins, it can affect you far more than you imagine. 

Swelling in your legs happens as a result of pressure build-up in your veins, which causes the fluid from the blood to leak into the tissue surrounding the damaged vein.

While the typical result of swelling is an uncomfortable and tight feeling in your skin, you may find that you swell to the point of where you cannot put shoes or clothes on comfortably, and may possibly even see leakage of a yellow-colored fluid.

If you leave swelling such as this untreated, your skin can become hard and possibly even change color.

Skin Ulcers

As mentioned above, swelling over long periods of time can cause your skin to change. Not only will this swelling cause the outward appearance of your legs to change in color and texture, it can also cause your skin to struggle with healing from minor injuries.

Why does this happen?

The swelling limits access of nutrients to your damaged tissue, which means the normal healing process is unable to do its work. 

And this will show itself as a venous ulcer, which, according to a HuffPost article, “is when an area of the skin breaks down to reveal the flesh underneath.”

If that doesn’t sound bad enough, by leaving that untreated, you run the risk of the ulcers getting bigger and bigger, which means increasing discomfort and irritation in the legs.

Thrombophlebitis

This condition occurs when the veins just below the surface of your skin become inflamed due to the decreased blood flow and damaged veins.

Thrombophlebitis may show itself as redness of the skin and increased tenderness of the veins, as well as ongoing pain or swelling of the legs.

Bleeding

Because varicose veins store more blood than healthy veins, you’ve got a lot of extra blood sitting below the surface of the skin. This means that any little nic or hit to your leg can cause a great deal more blood than if your veins were normal. You can also see more intense bruising as a result of your damaged veins. 

While this doesn’t sound major, over time you may find yourself losing a great deal of blood.

Lipodermosclerosis

Another common concern with leaving varicose veins untreated is something we call Lipodermosclerosis, a term used to describe stiffening or hardening of leg tissues. According to a Huffpost article on the dangers of leaving varicose veins untreated, “when the tissues of the leg are left inflamed for a long period of time, the tissues become firm and heavy. The patient might feel that their legs are becoming increasingly tender, making it more difficult to move or relax.”

senior woman suffering from varicose veins

Varicose veins aren’t always dangerous, and may never cause you issues beyond their cosmetic qualities. However, there is no way to know that on your own.

So, if you are suffering from varicose veins or any of the symptoms we’ve mentioned above, it is imperative that you schedule a consultation with a vein specialist to ensure that you don’t find yourself dealing with anything more serious.

Put your mind and body at ease. 

Schedule a consultation today.

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